This course is discontinued

ECON1230 – Distributional justice

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The course is an introduction to modern theories of justice in distribution of income and other economic goods. The subject of social justice, being a normative one, was for many years not considered suitable for academic research. The appearance in 1971 of John Rawls: A Theory of Justice in 1971 changed the prevailing academic climate. Since then, a steady stream of papers and books have appeared. The course will make the student acquainted with the most important modern schools of thought. We will discuss, in particular, the foundation and consequences of modern utilitarianism and economic welfare theory; John Rawls's theory of the social contract; Amartya Sen's capability approach ; libertarianism as propounded by Robert Nozick. We will also attempt to analyse, and give content to, notions like equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, economic rewards according to deserts.

The ideological foundations of the welfare state will be discussed. Economic rights for women and children will be given more emphasis than in standard textbooks. We will in particular study Martha Nussbaum's proposal of universal rights for women.

The course is not addressed especially to student economics, but will fit into degrees in e.g. political science and sociology. It is particularly suitable for students of Public administration (Offentlig administrasjon og ledelse), Development economics and Gender studies (Kjønn, feminisme og likestilling).

Learning outcome

The student will become able to address systematically some important contemporary issues concerned with justice in distribution. Do successful leaders deserve large bonuses? Is it morally defensible to cut back pensions in order to promote economic growth? To what extent should the poor be accounted responsible for their situation?


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Persons who are neither admitted to a bachelor's programme at UiO nor registered for this course may still apply to sit for the exam (privatist).


Formal prerequisite knowledge

No obligatory prerequisites beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway.


The course will be taught in English unless all participants are Norwegian speakers.

There will be given one compulsory term paper, that has to be handed in by all students (including privatister).

If the compulsory term paper is not approved, students will have a new attempt by handing in a new paper. A student who still not succeed, will not be permitted to take the exam in this course.

Lectures: 2 hours per week throughout the semester.

Seminars: 2 hours per week through parts of the semester.

There might occur weeks exempt from teaching (where students are expected to do compulsory term paper).

Access to teaching

A student who has had the compulsory term paper approved, is not entitled to hand in the term paper again. A student who has previously been admitted to the course, but who has not completed the compulsory term paper, is entitled to repeat the course, contingent on available capacity.


A 3-hour written school exam at the end of the semester (also for privatister). Students are not allowed to present themselves to the written school exam if the compulsory term paper is not approved.

When the compulsory term paper is approved, the result will be registered. Students can retake the written exam later without handing in compulsory term paper again.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

The problem set will be given in English and Norwegian. Answers can be given in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or in English. See § 5.4 i Forskrift om studier og eksamener ved Universitetet i Oslo .

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Students who might wish to retake the exam later, are not guaranteed that the course is ever repeated with a similar reading list, nor that the exam arrangement will be the same.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course







Teaching language

Norwegian (English on request)